Blakfish / Shapes / The James Cleaver Quintet
It’s Blakfish’s last tonight and for once I’m not banjaxed to the moonpipes. Mein arrival coincides with The James Cleaver Quintet, who confusingly are a quartet, and play like they meantet. An Eighties Matchbox tinged riot of hair, thrash noise, bloody injuries and a drummer who batters the shit of his kit. Wild performance that sees a singer lost in the crowd, a bass player inflicting personal damage on himself, and an amp-hurdling guitarist clambering over speakers to extract brain-mangling feedback that’s capable of taking out low flying aircraft, the kind that makes family pets go apeshit and maul their owners. They certainly blew my brain in a most magnificent way.
Speaking of blown brains, I had shagged my mind out with boozleparp last time I saw Shapes and was probably not in a fit state to appreciate them. Critical faculties intact this time, I’m in a much better position to assess them, so I’m somewhat surprised to find I wasn’t massively off the page previously. A sense-challenging, tamed violence that displays strong musicianship but lacks a killer tune. Difficult music. I stand by my earlier assertion that you have to “get” this band to really appreciate them and twice now, they failed to really grab me. Does they say more about me or them?
And so to Blakfish’s last performance ever. Well respected, local heroes, great history etc etc yadda yadda blart. Of course they’re all those things and a lot more besides but the most incredible thing they should take away from tonight’s gig was the complete and utter mental adoration of those crowding the Flapper to see them off. To be honest, I’ve never seen anything like it down there. With an audience so desperate to get close to the band, the stage was quickly overrun, people were crowdsurfing and risking concussions from the low brick roof, special guests struggling to make their way to and from the microphone. Christ, if the Health and Safety Nazi’s turn up now, the Flapper as a gig venue will be sorely at risk.
The assembled seem to know every word of every song and perform with as much passion and energy as the departing Blakfish. Mayhem, adulation, anthems and lust. As a finale to an era, they couldn’t have really asked for anything more.